setting a holiday budget

Setting and Sticking to a Holiday Shopping Budget

Every year the holidays seem to begin earlier and earlier. Both Walmart and Target started bringing out their Christmas decorations and merchandise before the Halloween candy was even off the shelves.

Not only have the holidays been thrust upon us sooner, but they’re also getting more expensive each year as well. Yes, the holiday season is a time of giving, however, it’s important to remember that we can’t give more than we have. We’ve let the Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays and all the one-night-only, anxiety-inducing sales get the better of us. After all, who wants to pass up a good deal…right?

But as many families continue to struggle financially with today’s tightening economy, getting a good deal is smart, but getting carried away, allowing our credit card balances to balloon, is not. If we set a strict budget and stick to it – not being naughty but nice – we can get gifts for everyone on our shopping list while avoiding the after-the-holiday blues of falling into debt.

Here are some helpful tips to ensure that all of our holidays are “oh so merry:”

1. Make a budget – Yes, just like everything else in our lives that involves money; we must create a budget. We need to come up with a realistic amount of money we can spend. No, this isn’t the amount of money we can afford to charge on our credit cards and pay off in increments by next year’s holidays. This is the amount we can spend in cash and still be able to afford the holiday dinner with all the trimmings.

2. Make a List and check it twice – Before we head out the door or get on our computer, we need to make our list of the people we plan to buy gifts for this year. Like grocery shopping, having a prepared list will keep us on financial target and keep us from impulse buying. We must prioritize our list – family, friends, tithes, teachers, etc. We must determine an amount we plan to allot to each of the people on our list and then make sure the total dollar amount equals our budgeted figure. If we are over budget, we must – as difficult as it seems – remove people from our list or spend less on each person. WE MUST STAY WITHIN OUR BUDGET!

3. Pay Cash – We must avoid the temptation to use debit or credit cards. We typically spend 12-18% more money when we use our credit cards. If we are going to the store; we should bring cash. If we are going to use the Internet, a debit card is better than a credit card, but the best way to stay within our means is to use a prepaid card.

4. Be creative – People love getting gifts that are homemade and come from the heart. We can make pies, cookies, jellies, etc., and wrap them up festively to give to friends, teachers, co-workers, etc. We can give the gift of time – make coupons for a nice dinner for someone, babysitting – take care of friends’ children so they can have a nice evening out. This is a great gift idea for dads/husbands – give wives a coupon for a day all to themselves.

5. Be a savvy shopper- Look for coupons, clearances and sales. Shop early – avoid those last minute anxiety driven impulse buys.

6. Be honest – If we are going through tough financial times – lost our job, pay cut, etc. we need to let our family and friends know that money is tight for us this year. Sharing the holidays together is the best gift of all.

Whether we’re ready or not, the holiday season is upon us once again. Let’s not make it one that leaves us disheartened long after we’ve packed the decorations away. In the true spirit of the season, let’s make it about having fun, spending time with our family and friends and making lifelong memories.

Happy holidays from our Intracoastal family to yours!